The Swiss Federal Council and the Swiss parliament remind Swiss citizens that if they choose “no” in a referendum scheduled for May 15, the move could prompt Switzerland to leave the borderless region of Europe, thereby giving up benefits. that comes with membership.
During a media conference on Thursday, 2 March, Federal Chancellor Karin Keller-Sutter and Federal Councilor Ueli Maurer presented a list of facts, why the Swiss people should vote “yes” in the referendum.
The referendum will decide whether or not Switzerland should contribute to strengthening the European Border Agency (Frontex), TheSchengen.com.
As a member state of the Schengen area, Switzerland has contributed to the financing of Frontex since 2009. While the agency’s budget for 2020 was 364 million euros, the European Union raised it for 2022 to 754 million euros, due to Switzerland’s contribution to this. The budget is also expected to increase from 24 million Swiss francs in 2021 to 61 million Swiss francs in 2027.
The move was criticized by many in Switzerland, where more than 62,000 signatures were collected to organize a referendum on the issue. According to Swiss laws, if a person or group of people collects at least 50,000 signatures to conduct a referendum on a topic, the referendum will be organized in the following months.
By participating in Frontex, Switzerland takes responsibility and helps shape things, including the protection of fundamental rights. The Swiss Federal Council notes in a press release issued after the conference that the refusal of “no” jeopardizes Switzerland’s participation in the Schengen/Dublin Agreement.
Among other things, the Council notes that it is in Switzerland’s interest to participate in the control of the Schengen external borders, noting that the country is located on the most important transit routes in Europe and in the heart of the Schengen area.
According to the council, when the external borders are secured by Frontex, the Swiss border is also more secure, which means that expanding and strengthening Frontex will automatically benefit Switzerland as a country.
The press release also highlights the fact that Frontex is getting more and more involved in the repatriation of illegal immigrants, while making sure that those who reside illegally in Switzerland, too, have to deal with Frontex, which eases the burden on the Swiss immigration authorities.
The Council reiterates that “if the electorate rejects the bill, Switzerland’s cooperation with the Schengen and Dublin countries will automatically end unless the EU Commission and all EU countries unanimously decide within 90 days to continue working with Switzerland.”
It further explains that ending cooperation will have serious consequences for Switzerland’s security and asylum system, including:
Swiss police and customs will no longer have access to the Schengen information system, which is used to check the risks a traveler may face when entering the country, as Switzerland has to reconsider asylum applications that have already been rejected by another Schengen country. Travel for Swiss citizens and cross-border traffic will be restricted. The tourism sector will face huge losses as travelers from third countries will have to apply for a separate visa for Switzerland, and Germany and other neighboring countries will have to systematically check travelers to and from Switzerland
The council notes that “Switzerland will become an island of freedom of travel.”
Previously, at the beginning of February, Chancellor Keeler Sutter warned EU home affairs ministers that her country might have to leave the Schengen area due to May’s referendum. Upon meeting, Keeler Sutter said that those present were somewhat surprised by her remarks and were unaware of the consequences of the referendum.